Just days after the New York State Assembly unanimously passed a resolution denouncing “Redskins” as a racial slur, 50 U.S. Senators have put pressure on the NFL to stand on the “right side of history” and change the team’s name. In a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the senators urged the league to officially support changing the team’s name.
“Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports,” the letter reads. “Now is the time for the NFL to act. The Washington, D.C. football team is on the wrong side of history. What message does it send to punish slurs against African Americans while endorsing slurs against Native Americans?”
The letter also says that this debate is a matter of tribal sovereignty, and that all of the country’s national Tribal organizations, which represent more than two million Native Americans, have unequivocally spoken out in support of changing the name.
“The name of Washington’s NFL team is widely recognized as a racial slur,” said NCAI Executive Director Jackie Pata in a news release. “The NFL is a global brand, but if it wants to contribute to the positive image of the United States across the world, rather than callously promoting discrimination against Native Americans, then it must stop promoting this slur and finally change the name.”
In urging the NFL to act, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-MD) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who drafted the letter, reminded the commissioner that tribes across the US have passed resolutions condemning the name.
“Many of Today’s tribal leaders have parents and grandparents who were punished and prosecuted for practicing their ceremonies or speaking their language,” the letter reads. “Yet every Sunday during football season, the Washington, D.C. football team mocks their culture.”
Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, has remained adamantly against a name change despite creeping opposition from civil rights organizations, faith leaders, sports icons, leading journalists, and top Native American organizations.
Most of the signers are Democrats. Just five Democratic senators declined to sign the letter, including both Virginia senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana also did not sign the letter, Politico said. Two independent senators, Angus King (I-ME) and Bernie Sanders(I-VT) endorsed the letter.
“Listen, it’s hard to get 50 people in this place to agree on anything,” Cantwell told the New York Times.
The Oneida Indian Nation applauded the senators, and the New York Assembly for their support.
“New York's federal and state officials from both parties are setting an example for the country by saying that major institutions in America have a moral obligation to be respectful of all cultures,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter. “These New York leaders are placing themselves on the right side of history by demanding that the NFL stand up to Dan Snyder and force him to stop promoting this painful racial slur.”
The Nation has led the Change the Mascot campaign and received support from numerous political leaders and others including, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Tom Cole, Betty McCollum, and Eleanor Holmes Norton.
“I have 22 tribal organizations in Nevada,” Reid told the Times. “They are not mascots. They are human beings. And this term Redskins is offensive to them.”